Geopolitics

Why Sudan Should Matter To Us All

Beyond the geopolitical ramifications, what's happening in Sudan is our problem too. Between the violence from those in charge and the meaning of citizen movements, the stakes couldn't be higher.

April 25 protests in Khartoum
April 25 protests in Khartoum
Roger-Pol Droit

-Analysis-

PARIS — The situation in Khartoum over the past couple of days has marked the beginning of a major crisis, whose stakes extend well beyond the borders of Sudan. For two basic reasons, we must all care. The most visible one is geopolitics: This pivotal African country stands at a crossroads where Russian, Chinese and American interests, as well as direct spheres of influence of Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia intersect, and potentially openly clash. Then, there is also our continent, Europe, and its tendency at procrastination, now facing the situation in the context of immigration.

I won't try to pinpoint the whys and wherefores, to assess the risks —I'll leave that to experts in diplomacy and geopolitics. But this crisis is also about more than Sudan's people for another less-obvious reason, and that is linked to political philosophy.

Terror is not a figure of speech.

What is remarkable in the ongoing series of events is the direct, clear-cut confrontation — perfect, somehow, in the purity of contrast — between two conceptions of politics. On the one hand, a determined, thoughtful crowd, minds set to peace, managed in the beginning of April 2019 to chase away a president, Omar al-Bashir, accused of having blood on his hands. He is currently facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

This surprising movement was then able to reach a deal with military rulers, in order to design a step-by-step transition leading to democracy. Yet in recent days, some generals seem to have changed their minds, trying to break to popular momentum with pure terror.

Sudan's Transitional Military Council's spokesman in Khartoum on May 7 — Photo: Mohamed Khidir/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Using the word "terror," here, is not a figure of speech. The regime's Rapid Support Forces are a murderous, destructive force in the region, including many who showed faceless cruelty in Darfur: destroying villages, poisoning wells, raping and killing senselessly. As of June 3, in Khartoum, these units have fired shots at an unarmed crowd, led punitive expeditions, knifed civilians, assaulted women. The dictatorship of barbarity, rule by fear.

Facing off this policy strategy that's as old as autocracy itself, we see a calm, creative grassroots movement that is confident but not gullible. It has reached a new level and now includes a wide variety of elements across society. Facing the extreme violence of recent days, its members' skills at political invention will be crucial. Right now, the movement is looking for a path to non-violent resistance, gaining inspiration from American philosopher David Thoreau and India's iconic democratic leader Mahatma Gandhi.

The game is not over yet.

Can closed shops and civil servant strikes hold back barbarity and put an end to terror? Are they enough? Are more direct forms of action needed? Unless there are no other means than violence to address violence, we could see the beginning of a civil war. Some think about it. Not many.

The game is not over yet. But it will be, soon. France's voice and Europe's move could be decisive — but don't hold your breath. Yet, beyond Khartoum, Sudan's fate and regional power games, the outcome of this arm-twisting is not a purely theoretical, abstract philosophical dilemma.

All over the world, under varied shapes — though not that different at the end of the day — the same clash seems to have been triggered again between brutal forces and the right of people to self-determination. Either the situation tilts towards order imposed through coercion, torture and anguish; or democratic liberty triumphs thanks to ingenuity, intelligence and courage.

Everywhere in the world, similar clashes have started to break out, between brute forces and the right of peoples to self-determination. Still, knowing what you want is different from predicting what tomorrow brings.

One thing is certain: What's at stake in Khartoum is, one way or another, the business of every citizen in the world. It can take on different forms depending where you are, but it is always a choice between tyranny and liberty, repression and equality, inhumanity and fraternity. All these words are neither pure ideas nor futile pipe-dreams, but rather political realities that we need to work towards, relentlessly.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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